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swerve from his infallibility, by applying to incorrigible profligacy the exterminating arm of His justice? Would not the sparing of those cities have fostered the widely-spreading growth of vice, instead of arresting it? Would it not have tended to multiply evil, instead of to subdue it? Would it not have encouraged social and civil disorders, instead of removing or correcting them? The mischief was to be checked, but it had spread too wide to be arrested by the ordinary interpositions of Divine providence. It had struck too deep to be eradicated, except by entirely overthrowing the hot-bed of corruption in which it grew, and purifying the contaminated spot, with the chastening fires of Divine retribution. There was nothing short of utter extermination, in cases so desperate. The disease, deeplyseated and long-continued, required a proportionate remedy. Gangrene had reached the core, and no cure remained but complete excision.
Yet it may be said, that infants, unconscious of the sins of their parents, could not be responsible for those sins. What then? Being innocent, they were not punished as guilty; having no consciousness of a punitive visitation, they did not suffer it. Upon them fell nothing more than that death which is the general lot. They underwent no special infliction; they were not included in the judgment which fell upon their native city, though they participated in the common destruction, because to them it was no punishment; they endured no more individually, because
multitudes perished in one promiscuous carnage, than if they had perished individually; their decease was not the more terrible, because they endured it not alone. They underwent no severer sufferings, because they were sent out of the world in evil company. To them, death by slaughter was far less painful than by disease, the one being instantaneous, the other oftentimes painfully protracted. They were not subjected to the terrors arising from the consciousness of offence. The mortal stroke was their only agony. And was it greater than that daily endured in our own families, when babes are snatched from their mothers' arms by the rude gripe of death, under torments which make the heart sicken to behold and ache to contemplate ?
-nay, was it comparably so great ? But do we ever question the wisdom or the mercy of Providence in these domestic calamities? Do we ever charge our groans to the cruelty of Him who, “ in the midst of judgment” still “ remembers mercy;" who in the utmost severity of his chastening dispensations here, “knoweth our frame and remembereth that we are but dust?" Do we ever dare to think God unjust, when he sends His stern messenger into our families, and selects the dearest for transportation to the realms of everlasting glory, leaving us to all the bitterness of a lingering grief, which He alone can cause to subside ; which He alone can assuage ? Is there, I would ask, any thing more unmerci
ful in destroying, through human agency, a number of heathen infants in the arms of their wicked parents, than in tearing from the embrace of a Christian mother, two or three of her offspring in the bloom and beauty of infancy, almost at the same moment? No! The blow is struck for good whether it fall on the heathen or on the Christian child, for God “being plenteous in mercy,” cannot be cruel. Cruelty is an evil, and consequently cannot enter into His perfection, which excludes all evil, directly contradicting it; to which, therefore, it is diametrically and necessarily opposed.
Suppose the infants, involved in the slaughter of their kinsfolk and neighbours, transported to God's everlasting paradise. Was their death an evil ? Was it unmerciful ? Was it not a boon ? Was it not a gracious manifestation of Almighty love ? Suppose they had lived; trained up to vice; to outrage everything holy; to worship idols ; ignorant of God; haters of virtue ; lovers of impiety; would that stroke which swept them from earth, ere they could be surrounded by such an array of perils, have been an act of cruelty ? On the contrary, would it not have been a visitation of most transcendant mercy?
Great God! how falsely do men reason upon thy dispensations! They look at them through the mist of their passions, which often transforms their beauty into deformity, and to such Thou appearest terrible even in the most brilliant displays of Thy glory! Depraved minds, view all spiritual objects through a medium indistinct and dark; because they behold them from behind the shadows of their selfish prejudices. But however men may judge of Him, God is
righteous in all His ways, and holy in all His works.”
It may again be urged that, in destroying all the inhabitants of a city, many children, old enough to be sensible of the horrors of such a scene, must have been among the number of the slain. This is possible; nay, it is, no doubt, true. But the same argument will apply. If innocent, they underwent no punishment; if guilty, they deserved it. In the former case, there was no judicial penalty ; in the latter, it was demanded. Supposing them guiltless, they were blessed, not punished. They were only removed from darkness to glory, from misery to happiness, from turmoil to peace. They were withdrawn from the contagion of vicious example, which must at least have perilled their souls, and might have involved them in everlasting ruin. Many, more advanced in years, and just entering the fatal labyrinth of vice, might have been arrested before they had proceeded too far to retreat. They were, perhaps, cut off in a contemplated career of folly. So that in every view of the matter, mercy, not cruelty, will exhibit itself even in these apparently terrible manifestations of divine retribution.
It is a great mistake to lay down certain rules of justice, applicable only to the state of human societies, and test the justice of God by these rules, which cannot apply to it: as the qualities of human and divine justice are, in
many respects, widely different, the former being finite, the latter infinite; that, consequently, which may apply to the one, cannot apply to the other. Infinity embraces all perfection, since it belongs alone to God. Divine justice must consequently be infallible, being an attribute of that perfection. Whenever, therefore, it is exercised, it must be right: that which is right must be good, and that which is good must be desirable. Wherever, then, the judgments of heaven fall, we may confidently exclaim, with our blessed Lord, however those judgments affect us personally, “not my will, o God, but thine be done.”
It may be further objected, that the slaughter of unoffending beasts, whose gift of life may be affirmed their only boon, was, to say the least of it, a superfluous severity, and not required by the circumstances which compelled its infliction. But, I would ask, what, in this respect, was done, more than is done daily in this vast metropolis for the necessary furnishing of our tables? Do we hear any complaints of the hundreds of oxen and thousands of sheep, weekly slaughtered to supply food for her crowded inhabitants ? Neither is the mode of slaughter the least cruel that could be devised, nor is the previous suffering without its severity ; while the caviller objects against God's mercy, for commanding a few hundred animals to be destroyed in the overthrow of a heathen city. Besides, the large propor